High winds that some weather observers estimated gusted as high as 80 mph combined with heavy rain and hail, caused significant damage to trees and structures, and knocked out power Wednesday night to thousands in southern Ohio.
But Adam Vance, who owns a farm just east of the Hillsboro city limits off SR 138 where he lost an 1800s era barn, about 30 trees and had damage to several smaller barns and some equipment, said he’s not sure the storm didn’t produce something more than strong winds.
“I’ve got trees laying north, south, east and west, and trees with the tops tore out of them. I don’t see how that could have been straight line winds,” Vance said.
Vance said that around 11:45 p.m. he was inside in his house when the wind sounded like a train. He said he and his daughter took cover inside a bathroom bathtub since they did not have a basement. He said he left a house door open but the wind blew it shut.
“It didn’t blow the wind in the house, it sucked the wind out of the house. I’m telling you, I think it was tornado,” Vance said Thursday. “It was wild last night. I don’t get scared by storms, but that one last night scared me.”
The path of the storm brought with it reports of a house damaged on SR 124 near Willettsville, major damage at Shaffer Park in Hillsboro, numerous details of uprooted trees, and trees and limbs on power lines.
Hillsboro resident TimWalker said the roof of the equipment room at the park was tore off, a utility pole holding a transformer that supplies power to the entire park fell into the Pony League field, another utility pole took out a foul pole on another diamond, several shelters over bleachers lost their tops, and debris was scattered all over.
“It’s gonna cost them a lot of money to put everything back like it was,” Walker said.
In addition to the other damage, park director Bruce Davis said the winds were so strong that they turned the field lights around and cracked a corner weight-bearing beam in the storage building.
He said that between the storm damage and complying with Gov. DeWine’s lock down order, he wasn’t sure what the future would hold for the park, indicating he had planned to open the baseball and softball season on June 1.
“I heard on the radio that somebody reported 100-mile an hour winds between Samantha and Greenfield,” he said.
Repair crews from both AEP and South Central Power were restoring electric service to customers throughout the early morning hours and during the day Thursday, with both utilities reporting hundreds of customers throughout Highland County without power.
AEP Ohio spokesperson Jessica Wright said that after the storms passed through the area, they had a little over 560 customers without service, while South Central Power Communications Manager Mark Owen reported they had close to 600.
An AEP crew was at Shaffer Park Thursday afternoon repairing snapped power lines and attempting to restore electric service to the ball park.
John Frank, a staff meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, said the damage was on par with what was experienced in Brown, Clermont, Warren and Hamilton counties, and that the Ohio State Patrol was conducting airborne operations in a helicopter surveying storm damage in the region.
“We’ve had numerous reports of damage and our managers have been on conference calls with the emergency management agencies for the counties we’re responsible for,” he said. “We’re taking a look to see where the worst of the damage is so we can see if we need to have somebody out at those sites.”
He said a line of thunderstorms made its way on a northeasterly path late Wednesday night, with meteorologists surmising the storms had embedded tornadoes, adding that northern Kentucky, greater Cincinnati and other counties to the northeast bore the brunt of the storm.
“Right now we’re trying piece together whether those damaging storms followed straight line winds or were indeed circulations that we were seeing on radar,” he said. “Sometimes you get tiny, little spin-ups along those storm lines so that there’s the potential for tornadic damage within that larger area of damage.”
As of Thursday afternoon, both AEP and South Central Power reported that service technicians had more half of their Highland County customers that lost power back on line.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.